March 5 is National Unplugging Day. This annual event challenges people to go 24 hours without using electronics such as cell phones, computers, televisions, gaming systems, and anything else related to technology. The idea is to spend a day without relying on the internet and screen-based entertainment to connect in other ways of passing the time and accomplishing tasks. Pew Research reports that nine out of ten households have at least one technology-related device, with the average being five. Eighteen percent of households have a whopping ten or more devices.
The younger the person, the more likely they are to have access to multiple devices. An entire generation is growing up with no memory of a world where they could not immediately access information and entertainment on a handheld, portable device. For adolescents and young adults, the idea of spending 24 hours without engaging in their tech habits can be scary and frustrating; however, there are benefits for any age group to “unplug” from the e-world. A short respite from electronic life can offer a person the opportunity to let their minds quiet down and recharge.
Engaging the Five Senses
While there is no denying the convenience of electronic devices, often, they rob a person of the advantages of real-time, in-person contact. Having a phone call instead of texting allows a person to hear things like tone of voice and laughter. However, speaking in-person opens the spectrum up even more. Face-to-face conversations allow for:
- Seeing body language
- Establishing eye contact
- Feeling a real connection
Many people enjoy cooking shows and recipe apps but do not take the next step of testing their skills in the kitchen. Spending some time trying a new recipe or fiddling around with an old one provides a person with the ability to smell cooking aromas and taste the results.
If a person considers playing a sport virtually as exercise, it’s time to rethink this. Toggling a few buttons or keys to play baseball or other sports does not provide the benefits of being on your feet, exercising, and getting fresh air. Choose activities that incorporate some or all five senses, making for a richer experience than one coming from electronic devices.
Less Screen Time Can Mean Better Sleep
Just the act of setting aside smartphones or turning off screens can mean a person is more likely to engage in other activities. Taking a brisk walk to stretch your legs or other exercise and getting fresh air lends itself to better sleeping patterns, and stop all screen time at least a half-hour before going to bed. Cell phones emit a type of blue light that affects melatonin production–the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm. When this is compromised, falling asleep and waking can be much more difficult.
Once a person is in bed, choosing a peaceful way to transition to sleep can decrease the amount of time to fall asleep. Reading a book (the physical kind, not an e-book) or listening to calming music are excellent choices. Even activities that seem harmless, like reading the news or scrolling through social media apps, can trick the brain into thinking it needs to stay awake to think about items read. Some news stories or updates on social media sites illicit strong reactions, such as anger, frustration, or sorrow. The mind may remain focused on these feelings rather than making a relaxing transition to sleep.
Being Plugged in Can Be an Avoidance Technique
Many people can relate to the idea of “just one more game” or “five more minutes” as an excuse to keep themselves occupied with electronics. In particular, adolescents will jockey for more time doing what feels most comfortable and most fun for them, making it imperative for parents to challenge them. Too often, burying one’s head in electronic devices can be a way of distracting a young person when dealing with mental health issues or sobriety.
While National Unplugging Day occurs once annually, unplugging from devices can be done on any day throughout the year. A parent or treatment professional can sit down with a young person to help them plan for a day of being “unplugged.” Discuss what activities they might be avoiding by being tethered to their devices. Make a list of things to accomplish on their “day off,” which could include household chores, studying, getting outside, socializing, journaling, doing volunteer work, or engaging in creative pursuits. Make sure kids understand that being unplugged for a day is not a punishment. Being “unplugged” is an opportunity to shake up a routine and see what one can accomplish.
National Unplugging Day is a day set aside for people to abstain from their electronic devices, such as smartphones, televisions, computers, video gaming systems, and streaming services. The idea is to reconnect with non-electronic pastimes that involve movement and engaging in all five senses. Doing so can promote better sleep and counter the tendency to avoid accomplishing necessary tasks. When a young person seeks help from Sustain Recovery, we allow them the ability to unplug from their daily life to concentrate on healing. Our clients often find that being removed from their familiar home environment and any unhealthy temptations among peers proves beneficial to hitting the “reset button.” This allows them to learn to thrive in sobriety and manage any co-occurring mental illnesses. When they return home, they are equipped with the skills needed to heal and move forward. Call us today to find out how we can help your child unplug and rejoin life! (949) 407-9052